Modern Times

"I fear the day when the technology overlaps with our humanity. The world will only have a generation of idiots." Einstein

First it was the telephone and then the television and now e-mailing and texting and the constant stream of whatever it is that people are staring at or listening to on their cell phones. Rarely do I see a young person walking about without their eyes focused on its screen or talking to someone with the thing. What is it that they are talking about? How can they have so much to say to one another?

At dinner one night at an outdoor cafĂ© in Italy, I observed a couple sitting silently together at their table. Each one was peering at their cell phone. I never once saw them speaking to one another. Instead, they spent the entire time talking to someone on their mobile. And when they were finished speaking, they continued to fiddle with it, no doubt searching for the latest text message or poking around the Web. I thought they were surely a couple on the verge of a meltdown. Since then, I’ve seen this scene played out at almost every restaurant and on the streets of every place I’ve been to recently. And it’s just not the young who are doing this.

What is lost when people no longer experience or know how to deal with the “separation” and the desire to be alone for any length of time, or even a moment of reflection? “First, the propensity for introspection, that examination of the self…Lost, too, is the related propensity for sustained reading.” William Deresiewicz

What had happened in these ten years for there suddenly to be so much to say—so much so pressing that it couldn’t wait to be said? Everywhere I walked, somebody was approaching me talking on a phone and someone was behind me talking on a phone. Inside the cars, the drivers were on the phone. When I took a taxi, the cabbie was on the phone. For one who frequently went without talking to anyone for days at a time, I had to wonder what that had previously held them up had collapsed in people to make incessant talking to a telephone preferable to walking about under no one’s surveillance, momentarily solitary, assimilating the streets through one’s animal senses and thinking the myriad thoughts that the activities of a city inspire. For me it made the streets appear comic and the people ridiculous. And yet it seemed like a real tragedy, too. Philip Roth Exit Ghost

We were sitting in the window of the luncheonette and could see people walking by on the street. At the moment I looked up, every one of them was talking on a cell phone. Why did those phones seem like the embodiment of everything I had to escape? They were an inevitable technological development, and yet, in their abundance, I saw the measure of how far I had fallen away from the community of contemporary souls. I don’t belong here anymore, I thought. Philip Roth Exit Ghost

I guess this is nothing new. Even the speedy Mercury was fixated on his cell phone.

1 comment:

Richard Katzev said...

See Wayne Curtis' blog, The Walking Dead, from The Smart Set.